"1. if you ever want to wear mommy’s make-up, just make sure you don’t eat it. when it’s time to go to bed, I will help you wash it off.
2. when school starts and you want to jump rope instead of play kickball, be careful not to trip and hurt your knees.
3. if you grow up and a boy makes your heart hurt, you do not have to be ashamed.
4. if you fall in love with a girl
who wears the same clothes
as you, it will be easy for me to buy you both presents.
5. if I teach you anything, I will teach you to be gentle.
6. you are not Atlas and the world
is not a burden for you to carry.
7. if you do not like your body, if you feel like you were put inside the wrong one, I will stand by and watch you become again.
8. because we are human beings and we do not always have to
take what we are given.
9. I will love you constantly, fervently, always.
10. I will teach you the value of
the word “no” so that, when you hear it, you do not question it.
11. when the war comes
and you want to fight, I will
sleep with clenched fists until you come home to me.
12. when the war comes and you don’t want to go, I will sleep soundly.
13. you are allowed to be soft. you are allowed to break and bend. you do not have to be strong. you do not have to be a soldier."
But it is just this able-ist gaze, the one that looks on my body as abject or worthless and my contributions as questionable, that drives me forward. I will have to make the world I want to live in, and I may not always be able to be my own and only advocate, but I am certainly determined to make my voice a part of the political discourse and cultural landscape. We need a diversity of voices to begin to change the dominant narratives, including those that say women of my status and background have little to contribute as a part of the polity. It is in resistance of these narratives that I persist with a kind of grim determination, that I identify as disabled, and that I fight: first with my own beleaguered body, but also against the disbelief and microaggressions of my professors and peers, in order to make sure that my intellectual and cultural contributions will find a place.